Defying predictions that the velocity of tweets would render Twitter useless either technically or practically during last night's election, the site didn't break and was actually a pretty great place to keep up on news. This tweet from Twitter's creative lead Dave Bowman pretty much sums up how things went last night.
RIP, Fail Whale.— Doug Bowman (@stop) November 7, 2012
To put that in context, the site peaked at 327,452 tweets per minute, 8 times the average, according to the site. And, Barack Obama tweeted the most ever retweeted tweet of all time, with this touching photo of him and Michelle at 11:16 p.m., minutes after Ohio was called, giving him the re-election.
Four more years. twitter.com/BarackObama/st…— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) November 7, 2012
By the way, that photo with over 3 million likes, also got most ever liked photo on Facebook crown last night, too. During all of that tweeting and retweeting, not once did the site go down, something that has plagued it during previous high trafficked events. When Michael Jackson died, for example, the site slogged. It also broke down during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. On election night, however, it persevered, leading AllThingsD's Mike Isaac to call this a "watershed moment" for the service. "It was Twitter’s watershed moment, performing as it should during the most tweeted-about political moments in the service’s six-year history," he said.
And even while moving so fast (and not breaking) it did its job, bringing accurate information to users. Last night, it felt particularly all business, most of the tweets coming across my feed giving straight-up news, rather than obvious jokes. There was something earnest about it, where the main goal was to get out the news as fast and as right as possible. It wasn't a "hazardous place," as Buzzfeed's John Herrman had predicted. When a rogue tweet got out that Senator Elizabeth Warren had defeated Scott Brown 30 minutes before she really did win Massachusetts, the Twitters quickly corrected its mistake.
Perhaps this diligence had to do with the kind of event we were dealing with, rather than a "watershed moment" for the service. Unlike Sandy, poll results eventually turn into hard data points, found all over the Internet. (Besides for Florida, which has yet to call its race.) If Twitter tells us Obama won Ohio, we can easily double check that on Google, or at the billion (estimated number) of news sites covering the election. If Twitter tells me there is a fire somewhere in Brooklyn—as it did during Sandy—it's harder to verify. Also, election night brought out the data nerds, as evidenced by all the Nate Silver fawning. These types would never stand for totally made up polling information. If it was out there, it didn't circulate.
If this is a real "watershed moment" it means we should expect a new Twitter to emerge following the election. One that never breaks down, ever. And, one that never lies to us. Judging from my feed this morning, at least one of those things is living up to that promise.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.